Cablegate: Ambassador's Speech On the Reform Process

DE RUEHNR #2342/01 3160612
R 120612Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ambassador's Speech on the Reform Process

1. Summary. On October 30 the Ambassador gave the keynote speech at
the Law Society of Kenya's luncheon. The speech, which was cleared
by Washington, focused on the reform process. The speech was
extensively covered by the media, was distributed to thousands of
key actors through the Mission database, and was provided to all
Members of Parliament. Public and private reaction has been highly
positive. The general thrust of views is that the U.S. should
maintain and increase pressure for implementation of the reform
agenda. End Summary.

2. Begin text. Thank you for inviting me to speak today. It is an
honor to address Kenya's legal community and to share ideas about
the way forward at this critical juncture in the country's history.

Historic Opportunity for Fundamental Change

Recently a commentator in one of the leading newspapers asked "who
will save us from the abyss?" Kenyans across the political, social,
and ethnic spectrum are expressing profound concerns about whether
the country is headed toward another crisis in the lead-up to the
2012 elections. Having recently been in Washington, I can testify
that President Obama shares these concerns. Kofi Annan reflected
these preoccupations during his most recent visit when he referred
to the Kenyan people's crisis of confidence in the leadership of
their country. In all corners of Kenya, one hears intelligent
appreciation of what must be done to avert a crisis: full
implementation of the reform agenda to which the coalition
government committed itself. The progress - or lack of it - on
implementation of the reforms and what can be done to encourage and
support implementation are, therefore, the most urgent issues facing
the nation.

Kenya is at a crossroads. The window is fast closing for the
meaningful reforms Kenya must undertake in order to avoid a repeat
of the 2008 violence - or worse - and to ensure a stable and
prosperous democratic future. To paraphrase the American poet Robert
Frost, Kenya faces two divergent paths. One leads back to conflict,
economic crisis, and the ruin of innocent lives. The other leads to
a more stable, prosperous, and open society in which corruption and
impunity are no longer tolerated. It is the determination to take
the path less traveled that will indeed make all the difference for
the future of this vibrant country.

The Law Society of Kenya is a well-respected and unique organization
in that its members represent all facets of Kenya's legal community.
You come from all the regions and ethnic communities of Kenya, and
collectively represent a brain trust of remarkable expertise. Among
your members are many of the prominent officials charged with
overseeing key portions of the reform process, including the
Chairperson of the Independent Boundary Review Commission; the
Chairperson and six of the members of the Committee of Experts on
the Constitution; the Vice Chair of the Truth, Justice, and
Reconciliation Commission; members of the Police Reform Task Force;
and a number of Members of Parliament who chair important
committees. You have in the past played a very critical role in
charting the path that this country has taken in the democratization
process. You continue to be a beacon of hope for many Kenyans. I
urge you to increase your engagement in support of the reform
process, including encouraging and supporting your colleagues who
occupy these important reform-minded positions to put their hearts
and minds without reservation into the tasks before them for the
benefit of Kenya.

The reform process is the most urgent issue for the international
community's relations with Kenya, because the United States and all
Kenya's partners want to see a stable and prosperous democratic
future for this country. President Obama knows the impressive
quality of the people of Kenya and the great potential of this
country. That is why he and his Administration are pushing hard to
ensure that Kenyans seize the opportunity, opened up by the crisis
last year, to bring about fundamental change. We will not relent.

Progress Overshadowed by the Culture of Impunity

In considering the challenges Kenya faces today, let me pause to
take stock of what has been achieved. Since independence Kenya has
had an upward trajectory marked by important milestones:
independence, the establishment of multi-party democracy, the smooth
transition between former President Moi and President Kibaki, the
holding of the first truly democratic election in Kenya's history;
and the subsequent achievement of an unprecedented 7 percent rate of
growth, to name only some.

And yet, the culture of impunity has hung like a dark cloud over the
country, retarding growth. How much greater could Kenya's
trajectory have been? True turning points in history are rare and
even more rarely understood at the time. But Kenyans and foreign
observers alike can all see that Kenya is at such a turning point.
Can leaders seize the opportunity to end the culture of impunity and
launch a process of fundamental change through implementation of the
comprehensive reform agenda?

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I believe that the Kenyan people are determined to see this done,
and that makes me positive about the future of the country. At the
same time, I am realistic and recognize that tackling the culture of
impunity requires a Herculean effort. I know that there are strong
and influential vested interests which are fighting against change
through political manipulation and corruption, through intimidation,
and even through violence.

That is why it is essential to encourage people to press their
leaders - and the entire political class - to move rapidly to
implement the reform agenda. Democracy only works effectively when
people clearly and peacefully make their views known to their
elected leaders. President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga and
parliamentarians need to hear a more concerted message from the
Kenyan people on the importance of implementing reforms. You can
exert leadership to help mobilize that concerted message.

The coalition government has been in office for almost 18 months,
since the Cabinet was formed in May of 2008. There have been some
achievements, but much more should have been accomplished, and must
be accomplished within the next 8-12 months. If not, the window of
opportunity to bring about fundamental change will be lost - as most
Kenyans already realize - with dire consequences for the nation.

On the positive side, the electoral commission was disbanded and the
Interim Independent Electoral Commission was set up. The Waki and
Kriegler Commissions delivered credible, detailed reports laying out
a roadmap for key reforms. The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation
Commission has been established, as well as the Boundary Commission.
And there have been some other modest steps as well.

Perhaps most importantly, the government has signaled its intention
to implement far-reaching police reform, and has begun the process
by changing the police leadership. This, coupled with the
resignation of the Director of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission
(KACC), opens the possibility for real reform to make the legal
system more effective, unbiased, transparent, and corruption-free.
We have made clear that we will maintain pressure for implementation
of the entire reform agenda, but that we will support reforms when
they are undertaken and backed by real and sustained political

Fundamental Reforms

While acknowledging some progress, the most important reforms that
are needed to end the culture of impunity and to ensure future
democratic stability and prosperity have either not been implemented
or are moving at an alarmingly slow pace which mitigates in favor of
the status quo.

-- No steps have been taken to hold accountable the
principal perpetrators of post-election violence.
-- Decisive, bold steps against corruption have not been launched.
-- Far-reaching judicial reform has not been undertaken.
-- The Attorney General's office remains an obstacle to effective
anti-corruption efforts and thus to reform.
-- The constitutional revision process is moving slowly and could
prove disastrously divisive unless the coalition partners cooperate
to support key changes.
-- Major and complex issues relating to districts, the census, and
preparation of a new voter list must be resolved.

Each element of these reforms is vital to Kenya's future.

Constitutional Revision

Meaningful and comprehensive constitutional revision is crucial to
create a framework in which all Kenyans can compete without fear
that any ethnic group or community will be disadvantaged. The
election of the NARC government in 2001 and the peaceful transition
of power was a time of hope and expectation in Kenya. The biggest
expectation was the one call that brought NARC to power: the
promise to deliver a new constitution. If a new constitution had
been passed that addressed important issues effectively, it might
have prevented or solved a number of divisive problems now facing
this country. I agree with the increasingly unified voice of
Kenyans who are insisting that it is critical to have a new
constitution now, and not at some undefined future date. In
addition, that constitution must address the difficult issues
head-on, including the structure of executive power, the system for
devolution, and judicial independence. The Law Society of Kenya, due
to the talents and abilities of its members, has been at the
forefront of constructive dialogue on constitutional reform for many
years. I urge you now to redouble and revitalize your energies in
this direction so that this historic opportunity is not lost.

Rule of Law

Rule of law reform is essential to assure Kenyans that everyone
regardless of their class, social status, or ethnicity will be
protected and given justice. Public perception that the court
system lacks impartiality and is riddled by corruption is a major
concern. Because all the elements of the criminal justice system are

NAIROBI 00002342 003 OF 004

interdependent, police and judicial reforms are closely linked. We
are encouraged that the government appears to recognize that the
culture of policing in Kenya needs to undergo some fundamental
changes in order to better serve the Kenyan people and to be in line
with modern international policing standards. I have told the
government that the United States is ready to support reform of the
police if the Task Force recommendations are implemented, and that
we will provide assistance to make the Kenya Anti-Corruption
Commission more effective if credible new leadership is chosen
through a transparent process. Among the most important police
reforms are the establishment of effective internal and external
oversight mechanisms to curb corruption and human rights abuses, and
the establishment of a Police Service Commission. Extrajudicial
killings must be fully investigated and stopped.


Bringing inciters and financiers of violence to account is vital to
send a strong message to those who choose to think that violence is
a viable strategy to influence the political process. Kenya needs
to become a place where it is no longer politically acceptable or
advantageous to exploit and worsen inter-ethnic tensions, to pay
voters or youths to carry out acts of violence, or to organize local
militias with the express purpose of terrorizing and punishing
innocent citizens. We continue to urge that a credible independent
Special Tribunal be established in Kenya and that Kenya fully
cooperate with the International Criminal Court to investigate and
prosecute those suspected of orchestrating and supporting
post-election violence.

Kenya in the Globalized World

In today's globalized world, no leader or nation can stand alone.
Every leader and nation, whether commenting on global issues or the
situation in another country, must do so while acknowledging that
his or her own country is not immune from criticism. This is
perhaps especially true of the United States for, as President Obama
has stated, to whom much has been given much is expected. The world
rightly comments on our short-comings - whether with respect to the
continuing challenges we face to achieve true racial equality, with
respect to the growing disparity in income between our rich and our
poor, with respect to abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib and
Guantanamo, or with respect to our foreign policy, just to name a
few issues. Profoundly cognizant of our own limitations, we seek to
play a responsible global role based on the mutual interests that we

Kenya and the United States have long shared a deep friendship and
partnership based on the extensive ties between our people and,
increasingly, on shared democratic values. It is within this
context and in this spirit that we speak out about the reform agenda
and its vital importance to Kenya's future.

Today I reiterate the calls of Secretary of State Clinton and
President Obama for Kenya's leadership to listen to the voices of
its people and to undertake implementation of the key reforms I have
listed above with a much, much greater sense of urgency. All of us
know what must be done. There is no more time for commissions,
rhetoric, obfuscation, and half-steps.

U.S. Efforts to Propel Reform

Our efforts to press for implementation of reforms are both private
and public. Privately, we are maintaining intensive dialogue with
the coalition leadership, parliamentarians, and actors across the
political, social, and economic landscape. That dialogue is frank
and constructive. Publicly, we are continuing to encourage the
Kenyan people to press peacefully for implementation of reforms. We
are involved in a number of other activities aimed at promoting
implementation of reforms. These include expanded outreach to
Members of Parliament; support for independent grassroots youth
organizations; and intensified contacts with civil society, the
private sector, the media, and religious organizations, to name only
a few. We are providing millions of dollars to support the reform
agenda, including technical and financial assistance to Parliament,
civil society, land reform, the Interim Independent Electoral
Commission, and constitutional reform, among other areas. In the
coming weeks we will be announcing new initiatives to expand this
engagement: through increased support for grassroots youth
organizations, empowerment of women, increased support for
reform-minded parliamentarians, and expanded dialogue with civil
society. As the elite representatives of Kenya's legal profession,
you have a special responsibility to employ your expertise to
support and press for implementation of the reform agenda.

In Wizard of the Crow, the great Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o's
magical, spellbinding novel about Kenya -- thinly disguised as
another fictional African nation -- he writes of the heroine:
"Helpless, she sought, as usual, solace in work, burying herself
even more deeply in the day-to-day details of the People's Assembly,
rallying around the call for the return of their (the people's)
collective voice. Their activities would climax in a day of
self-renewal during which the people would....renew their vows to

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step up efforts to steer the country in a different path." Most
Kenyans I talk with say that their country is in a state of crisis
right now, and that the country needs to move in a different path -
towards fundamental change. Thankfully, Kenya is not burning, but
these Kenyans rightly sense that the historic opportunity to bring
about fundamental change and to avoid a repeat of the crisis last
year will be lost without urgent implementation of the reform
agenda. Yet, in the absence of a dramatic crisis, along the lines
of what Kenyans experienced last year, it is hard to mobilize in a
concerted way to exert peaceful pressure for change. It is
important that all Kenyans who want to see peaceful change come
together in a more coordinated fashion to send an unequivocal
message to the entire political class on the need for reform.

I have repeatedly observed that the crisis last year was resolved by
the Kenyan people precisely because they came together in a
concerted way, with the help of the United States, Kofi Annan and
the Eminent Persons, and other international friends. The United
States could only play the helpful role it did because we were
supporting the Kenyan people. Neither we nor others can impose an
outside agenda for change. The reform agenda was drafted by Kenya's
leaders - and now the Kenyan people must hold those leaders
accountable for its implementation.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama have both stated that we will
not do business as usual with those who do not support reform or who
support violence. Thus, earlier this week Assistant Secretary for
African Affairs Johnnie Carson - a great friend of Kenya - announced
that the United States has imposed a visa ban on a very senior
Kenyan government official, and that we are considering a number of
such visa bans. We will take additional actions if the reform
agenda does not move forward.

Our President, a son of Kenya, wants to see a stable and prosperous
democratic future for this nation. No true friend of Kenya, no true
Kenyan patriot can want anything less. Failure to grasp the
historic opportunity Kenya now has in its hands would be
unconscionable. To take up this challenge and carry out reforms
will require heroic leadership and responsible pressure by the
Kenyan people. This is a daunting task. Some would say that the
odds are stacked against success, but I reject that categorically.
The Kenyan people rose to the unprecedented challenge they faced
last year, and I am confident that they will do so again, with the
support and encouragement of their friends. Today we can see a
growing awareness by Kenyans of the need for change, and dynamics
shifting in the direction of reform. These dynamics include a more
assertive Parliament, more constructive activism by youth, and a
citizenry that is more outspoken. Kenya has no greater relationship
than with the United States, and thus we have a great responsibility
to engage to our utmost to help Kenyans build a stable democratic
future in which the well-being of all will be advanced through
shared prosperity.

Thank you. End text.

© Scoop Media

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